Why are Youth Voices Important at CPD?

David Lawrence, Guest Contributor

As part of our series on the Commission on Population and Development (CPD), we've teamed up with YSafe to bring you accounts from youth advocates taking part in the convening. This one comes from David Lawrence, who came to New York from Liverpool, UK.

Each year there is a different theme for the CPD meeting, and the outcome document that advises countries on their strategies for sexual and seproductive health and rights (SRHR) service provision is tailored to this theme. This year the theme is "Adolescents and Youth."

Historically, lots of decisions surrounding SRHR have been made by adults and older people, despite the fact that these decisions have a huge impact upon young people. It’s great that this year we are focusing on how SRHR services can be more tailored to young people. Even more impressive is the number of young advocates who are attending this year’s CPD.

Oftentimes there are criticisms of youth involvement in these high-level decision making processes: it can feel that we are just there in a tokenistic sense. So, it’s great to see young people facilitating sessions, contributing to discussions, and ensuring that our voices are not only heard, but also acted upon.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is particularly brilliant when it comes to youth involvement: we have a mandate that encourages 25% of employees and conference delegates to be young people aged 25 and under. The European Youth Network within IPPF, YSAFE (Youth Sexual Awareness for Europe), is one of the projects that embody this. So, as we prepared for our first day of negotiations at the UN, I looked forward to hearing from young people who are fighting for their rights and ensuring that there are no decisions made about them without them!

The morning CPD officially began, delegates from around the globe entered the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to discuss the future of SRHR and how countries can best implement the Programme of Action (POA) that was formulated in Cairo in 1994. For the first time in recent memory, CPD was attended by the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, whose speech opened the proceedings by applauding the large number of youth delegates in attendance this year.

It was imagined that the POA would be implemented by 2014, but as we are just two years away from this date, there are still many unmet needs of people around the globe, particularly adolescents and youth. The implementation of the POA is clearly going to be incomplete by 2014, and you can see this in how many young people do not have the knowledge or agency to exercise their own rights and dictate decisions concerning the health of their own bodies.

Given that there is clearly a great deal of work left to do in this extremely important field, there is a large amount of talk around a new stage in SRHR and development known as "ICPD+20 and beyond." The United Nations and its member countries need to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of the POA and decide on a future direction. One of the ways that will assist with determining the focus for what the CPD process will look like after 2014 is a global survey that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is conducting over the next year. This survey aims to find out what countries are doing to implement the POA and look at how their efforts could be improved in order to ensure all people are able to attain their sexual and reproductive health.

All of this talk is wonderful and it shows that the community is still committed to implementing the POA. However, young people want some assurance that the CPD process will not just continue for another 20 years and become "ICPD to infinity and beyond." We want action, and a sense of urgency, from member states and civil society. We want real, concrete movements that will ensure the POA is met sooner rather than later.

What is also very timely about this year’s CPD convening is that other big development programs, such as the Millennium Development Goals, are coming to the end of their term. Consequently, there is a whole new global development agenda being formulated. At this extremely important time for our world, we need to ensure that the outcome documents of this year’s CPD, and CPDs to come, are strong and will guarantee an increased focus on young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Originally published by YSafe


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